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Community marketing must be creative

From the Ground Up

When marketing your community, or even your company for that matter, watch out for the “Des Moines Factor.”

Have you ever seen an advertisement touting some community and thought to yourself, “This ad is so bland, so vanilla, that the community could be anywhere?” If so, you have discovered what I call the Des Moines Factor. It means that the advertisement is so generic that you could replace the name of the community being advertised with Des Moines, Iowa, and all the information would still apply. In other words, the advertisement does not point out any unique features of the community.

Let’s look at some examples. Here are the leads from five advertisements in a recent publication directed to professionals in the site selection business. Match the phrase with the community.

1. “Lots of good things grow in ________. Your company could be one of them.”

2. “A place to grow your business, raise your family and walk your dog.”

3. “Welcome to a place where people do business in the future without giving up the past.”

4. “Available workers, low operating costs and a great location. It’s all here.”

5. “Gateway to good business in the U.S.”

A. South Carolina

B. Elmhurst, Illinois

C. The Highlands of North Carolina

D. Wyandotte County, Kansas

E. Jersey City, New Jersey

The answers are 1-A, 2-B, 3-C, 4-D and 5-E. The problem is that any of the phrases could apply to any of the communities. Or Des Moines. That’s the Des Moines Factor.

Now let’s consider some other advertisements geared to the same audience. Match these leads with the community.

1. “Rated as one of the safest states in the country.”

2. “Where steel-tech meets high-tech.”

3. “The highest Ph.D.’s per capita, some of the lowest taxes in the U.S. and the fastest border crossing with Mexico.”

4. “Not only will we send you every spec building in the state, we’ll pay the shipping.”

5. “Right near the Big Apple is a Real Plum.”

A. Rockland County, New York

B. Mississippi

C. New Mexico

D. Appomattox Basin Region of Central Virginia

E. Vermont

The correct answers are 1-E, 2-D, 3-C, 4-B and 5-A. Do you notice a difference in this set of advertisements? Although 1 and 2 may have just a touch of the Des Moines Factor, each hits a hot button that is important to site selectors. They also create interest.

Two advertising campaigns in Mississippi come to mind when I think of uniqueness. One is that used by the Holmes County Economic Development Authority. It touts its unique characteristic of being part of a federally designated Empowerment Zone and located on an interstate highway. In the county’s advertising, it promotes that special feature. I think that’s a good move.

Sometimes, there is uniqueness in the usual and ordinary. Another campaign of note is the “Big Frog” campaign of the Clarksdale/Coahoma Industrial Development Foundation. The message is that in Coahoma County one can be a big frog in a little pond. Clever and effective.

So, what makes your community unique? If there is such a quality, then take advantage of it and promote. It doesn’t have to be a physical thing. It could be an historical event, such as the Civil War Campaign in Vicksburg. It might be that your community is interesting because it is the home of a famous person, such as Elvis Presley. Lots of people want to visit a community where someone famous grew up. Your community might have a crowd-drawing event, such as the Canton Flea Market or the Blessing of the Fleet. Exploit the uniqueness in your marketing program. And remember: all of us are still looking for that place “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all of the children are above average.”

Phil Hardwick’s column appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is hardwickp@aol.com.


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